Strong winds stoke weekend fire

Smoke billows from the G-18 fire south of Manassa late Sunday afternoon. The Conejos County Sheriff’s Office reports that one home and three other structures were destroyed in the fire. Numerous roads in the area were closed during the fire but all had reopened by Monday afternoon.

CONEJOS COUNTY — On Sunday, Oct. 27, a rapidly moving fire of unknown origins near Lobatos in Conejos County forced evacuations and burned at least 2,000 acres, as well as one home and three separate outbuildings

Residents living within a three and one-half mile radius of County Road G and County Road 17 were asked to evacuate the area at approximately 4 p.m. and remained out overnight. Sheriff Garth Crowther met with evacuees Monday morning at the Manassa Opera House to answer questions and offer further information.

Longtime and well-liked Manassa resident and town employee Paul Garel, wife Miranda and three children lost their home and everything they own in the fire, according to Pam Bagwell, who is gathering donations.

Named G-18, the fire started the afternoon of Oct. 27 and the South Conejos Fire Protection District was dispatched to an area near County Road G and County Road 17. When fire crews arrived, the fire had begun to spread north and east. Large numbers of cattle were displaced and numerous fences, pasture and haystacks were burned.

At the firefighters’ time of arrival, the fire had begun to spread north and east. Large numbers of cattle were displaced. The fire was approximately 2,000 plus acres in size but the final size is yet to be determined. One structure and three outbuildings were burned and Sheriff Crowther reported minor injuries to one volunteer firefighter but no other injuries were reported. 

Roads County Road M South to County Road G, and County Rd. 17 East to the Rio Grande River were closed from Sunday afternoon, until noon Monday when the fire was reported contained, but still burning in some areas and emergency responders feared high winds would cause it to spread. Fire agencies were monitoring the scene.

Sheriff’s investigators remained on scene Monday working to determine the cause and origin of the fire. ATF investigators also were called to help.

All Conejos County fire departments, Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control and numerous San Luis Valley fire departments actively fought the fire Sunday and Sheriff Crowther called out for mutual aid from neighboring law enforcement agencies, including Colorado State Patrol, who quickly responded, along with San Luis Valley emergency managers.

An email address has been set up for any questions the public may have. [email protected]

The public can also call the Conejos County Sheriff’s Office at 719-376-2196 Option 2 for further inquiries.

At this time please bring donations for the Garels to the Manassa shop or Town Hall. After hours drop off 618 Dotson, where the family is staying for now. This family has children they will need everything, Bagwell said. That includes but isn’t limited to towels, blankets, sheets, beds, dishes, toys, foods, drinks and, of course, always donations. Clothing sizes are boy, 4, boy, 12 and 8, girl. Parents can use size large.


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